THE UK DEFENCE SECRETARY has confirmed a massive investment in both Moray military bases – promising an economic boost for Lossiemouth in particular.
Sir Michael Fallon used a visit to Scotland yesterday to reveal investment plans for Scottish bases – and topping his list was £400million being spent on RAF Lossiemouth, with work likely to start as early as this summer.
Local firms are already lining up for a share in the work that will also see an additional 500 personnel arriving at the base. Several have been briefed on the Ministry of Defence requirements as they strive to build new hangars, workshops and support buildings for the P-8A aircraft being deployed to RAF Lossiemouth by 2020.
Work on extending the runways at Lossiemouth are also part of the restructuring of the base, which next month will see the departure of the last Tornado squadron – making way for another Typhoon squadron being deployed to Moray next year.
Last night John Cowe, chairman of the Moray Economic Partnership and one of several Moray councillors who was treated to a briefing and flight on a visiting P-8A from RAF Lossiemouth last year, highlighted a procurement event this week for local contractors run by Moray Council as they prepare for the extra personnel.
He said: “There was a procurement event held by the Council this week and it was very busy with local businesses and sub-contractors, it was good to see. The Council has already approved plans to build a new Lossiemouth High School – increasing the capacity to around 800 pupils. That will come before the Council again in a few months.”
The work at Lossiemouth was confirmed as part of a £1.7billion Scotland-wide funding package that will also see further work being undertaken at Kinloss Barracks – just months after local MP Angus Robertson sparked fears over its closure.
Mr Robertson had insisted Kinloss was being lined up for closure – however, it emerged that the base was only looked at as part of a wider review of the defence estate in the UK, and was never under any serious threat.
Last night Mr Robertson welcomed the investment in Lossiemouth, acknowledging the boost it would bring to the Moray economy: “It demonstrates the strategic importance of the base which was a point very strongly argued during the fight to save RAF Lossiemouth from closure.
“With the new infrastructure being built it means important work in the area – that, in turn, supports the wider Moray economy. In addition, the increasing military and civilian jobs on the base are very important to Moray and will help to sustain many local businesses.”
The Boeing P-8A is already a very familiar visitor to Lossiemouth, flying from the base from time to time as cover in submarine monitoring exercises. The nine aircraft on order are a replacement for the Nimrod fleet that flew from Kinloss until 2010.
Sir Michael announced the Moray funding was part of a wider programme that will also see the long-awaited conversion of the former RAF Leuchars base into a main Army headquarters.
He said: “Scotland is on the front line of defending the UK from growing threats at sea, in the air and on land. Our commitment to the future of defence in Scotland is underlined by increasing investment in better infrastructure for the Armed Forces helping to keep us all safe.”